Poll: SC voters support school choice legislation, Policy Council urges passage

A new S.C. Policy Council poll of likely South Carolina voters shows broad and bi-partisan support for school choice legislation expected to be voted on by the S.C. Senate this week. The bill (S.39) is expected to include privately-funded scholarships as well as taxpayer-supported scholarships for low-income students.

The Policy Council – the Palmetto State’s longest-serving nonpartisan free market research organization – has informed senators that the vote will be scored in its 2023-24 Free Market Legislative Scorecard and is a key education priority in its 2023-24 Legislative Agenda.

The poll of 637 likely SC voters asked:

“South Carolina is considering a new education scholarship program that would pay for some low-income K through 12 students to attend private schools of their choice, or help cover the cost of tutoring, textbooks, computers and more. The cost per student would be equal to or less than what the state is currently spending to educate these children. Do you approve or disapprove of this new school choice plan?”

60% of voters said they approve of the school choice program while only 30% disapproved. By a 2-1 margin, more voters strongly approved of it (32%) than strongly disapproved (16%).

Support for the measure has increased among voters as state lawmakers and Gov. McMaster have made expanding school choice a priority this session. In August of 2022, 47% of SC voters said they supported a similar proposal, while 26% opposed it. 27% indicated they neither supported nor opposed the plan, or were unsure, indicating that voters have become more familiar with the program since last year. SCPC’s June 2022 voter survey also showed strong support for Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) and school choice.

“Passing educational choice options for parents is widely popular in South Carolina among all ages, races, genders and political persuasions,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the South Carolina Policy Council. “There are few other pieces of legislation that the General Assembly could pass that would be as broadly supported as this bill.”

  • 63% of GOP voters approved of the school choice plan as did 55% of Democrats. 59% of self-identified independent voters indicated support for the measure.
  • African American voters, a subset of voters growing more in favor of school choice, supported the measure by a whopping 68% as opposed to just 23% who disapproved.  
  • Both male and female voters supported the measure by wide margins.
  • Men: 64% approved while 29% disapproved
  • Women: 56% approved while 32% disapproved

The legislation achieves critical goals set by SCPC including:

  • Offering more school choice opportunities for South Carolina families
  • Improving educational opportunities for disadvantaged and special needs students
  • Providing more educational opportunities to students in rural areas
  • Recognizing the importance of traditional public schools
  • Recognizing the critical role parents have in shaping their children’s education futures
  • Fostering healthy competition in the education system, creating a rising tide that will improve school quality across the state

SCPC’s January voter survey was conducted by Spry Strategies using IVR, cell phone and online interviews from January 17-19 among a random sample of 637 likely South Carolina voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Click here to see the survey results. If you have questions about the poll or would like to arrange an interview, please email dallas@scpolicycouncil.org or call 803-779-5022.

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